Australian Sevens rugby captain Ed Jenkins has declared established players in his squad aren’t going to surrender their spots to high profile stars like Quade Cooper.
The Australian Rugby Union have supplemented their Sevens squad in recent months by signing up Wallabies backs Cooper, Nick Cummins and Henry Speight, all of whom are now potentially available for Olympic selection.
France-based Cooper had his first training session with the squad on Wednesday, just a few hours after flying back into the country.
He is expected to make his Sevens debut for Australia at this weekend’s Sydney leg of the World Cup Series.
Friend made it clear on Wednesday that Cooper wouldn’t get up a walk up start into the team and the recent 15-a-side recruits would face plenty of opposition for Olympic berths.
“There’s also other guys there that have been performing really well for a number of years, so I think they are still going to be fighting for their spots,” Jenkins said.
“No one is going to lay down and just surrender their spot to a Wallaby, that’s for sure.”
Friend didn’t rule out the ARU signing more 15-a-side stars.
“I’m fully respectful of what the players have done to get us to where we’ve got to, if there are other players that are better than what we’ve got, I’m going to look at them,” Friend said.
“I said to the boys ‘that’s not a threat, see that as an opportunity. You’re here, you’ve got the position, so keep working on your skills and be the best you can be’.”
Jenkins doesn’t resent or begrudge the attention paid to Cooper, while the more established players in the team have struggled to gain widespread recognition.
“I think it’s great if its building the profile of the sport and it’s getting more attention, why not?” Jenkins said.
“You talk about these names all the time, but they haven’t been selected for the Olympics.
“We’re still a long way out from that and if they are going to bring a spotlight on the sport of sevens, I think all well and good.”
Although Cooper remains unproven in Sevens, plenty of rugby identities believe he has the skills to thrive in that that area.
“He’s got that X-Factor, that’s what you need in sevens,” Jenkins said.